Happy Birthday, Dad.

It’s been a few years now since I lost my dad, and I’m still waiting for it to get easier, for the missing him to lessen.

He would most definitely not approve of some of the things I’m eating these days. Pork—and, it follows, pork belly—was never one of his favorites. The weird offal bits, he wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. He never understood my obsession with raw fish or oysters—when given a choice, he preferred his seafood fried. And yet, my sense of adventure toward and enjoyment of food comes in great part from him.

We had breakfast together most weekday mornings; his egg sandwich was unparalleled. He taught me to make pancakes and French toast, how to shuck corn, when to use a lighter hand with the spices—a lesson learned the hard way, with an angry refusal to eat my cumin-spiked chili.

When he got sicker, his appetite plummeted and his already sensitive sense of smell went into overdrive. Too much garlic would require open windows and cross-ventilation; forget about curries, herbs. Mild comfort food (they don’t call it that for nothing) was the only thing he could stomach; cooking something he loved was a comfort for me as well. Feeding him gave me a way to feel like I was helping, and there weren’t many of those.

Before my parents’ first trip to Italy, he was apprehensive about the entire endeavor, but since “your mother wants to go,” he’d resigned himself to the torture that is that idyllic Mediterranean destination. I knew he’d love it once he was there—I had more than one person mistake me for a native during my brief visit (it’s the nose), and we look alike, so I knew he’d feel right at home. I had no idea how much, though. He returned a full-on Italophile, eating Italian and drinking Italian and talking Italian; it was at his request for a meal that would honor his new-found love for the motherland that we found what is now a favorite Brooklyn restaurant, and I’ll be celebrating his birthday with a meal there tonight. Salute, Dad.


14 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Dad.

  1. Jaydubs says:

    That was a lovely tribute to what sounds to be a pretty great man, Maya.

  2. Ann says:

    I’m deeply touched. I’m sorry for your loss.

  3. Marsha Stanton says:

    Tears that I held off all day. beautiful…

  4. jill says:

    with tears rolling down my face…I, too, miss your dad every dad…obviously differently than you. BUT- you did neglect one breakfast I know he loved: your mom’s homemade granola…espeially after it sat (with milk) for a while while he tended other things (like his coffee!!)…
    A very good man, indeed…who was always very VERY proud of you and Jenna…

    • aunt jill says:

      OMG- I can still see that bowl of granola with milk sitting for what seemed an eternity! One of those special memories…

  5. Tammy says:

    Sitting here looking at the Disney Treasures book he gave us and thinking of you, your mom and Jenna. Hope you had a wonderful dinner. Love you.

  6. Maya says:

    Thanks, guys. I loved writing this; glad y’all enjoyed reading. (And yes, dinner was delicious!)

  7. Nan says:

    Maya that was really lovely. I am trying not to cry. I really miss your dad and was just thinking about him yesterday….and now I know it was his birthday. Hope it was a great dinner :)

  8. Mary Gardiner says:

    Maya, that was such a wonderful read! Your Dad was a very special man and that trip to Italy that he shared with us was made all the more special because both he and your mom were there. Salute’

  9. Beautiful article, Maya! I’m sure papa would be very proud. Happy birthday, Mr Stanton! :)

  10. Tiffany says:

    Maya, that was a lovely tribute!

  11. JoAnn says:

    We speak of your dad so often – there are so many “Chuck stories”! He loved the three beautiful women in his life and was the most proud dad we’ve known….and we miss him……so thanks for sharing such personal memories!

  12. Betsey says:

    I just read your tribute. I had no idea your dad passed away. So sorry to hear it. You are such a terrific writer. I know he was always so proud of you!

  13. Maya says:

    Thanks so much, guys. His birthday’s always tough—it’s comforting to know that y’all miss him as much as I do.

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